Create compelling characters for the screen

Ex 1: List your 3 favourite movies and their most memorable characters. Why do you respond to this list?
Why do you feel the characters are memorable?
Boondock Saints- Rocco
He’s Just Not That Into You- Gigi
Amelie- Amelie
V for Vendetta- V and Eve
I find that these are movies I can watch over and over and not get tired of them. I think that I respond to these films because the main characters have traits and/or experience a journey that I can relate to. I personify myself as these characters when I watch the films and they fulfill desires that I would like to fulfill.
The characters are memorable in general because they are mostly social outcasts and oddballs, they are funny and amuse people with their quirks and are also, especially with …, people in whom you can see yourself.
Ex 2: What recent movie have you seen, in which the main characters have been generally unchanged at the end?  How did it leave you feeling? We’re the characters memorable? If not, why not?
Battleship- Lieutenant Hopper
Slightly dissatisfied and bored with the story. He just kept doing what ever he felt like doing. It just so happened that in this situation it was exactly what was needed to save the Earth and the other people simply accepted the merit of it at the end.
The movie was only interesting because of the graphics and the concept, but the main character barely changed at all which doesn’t make him very memorable or make the audience follow his journey as strongly as we would a more developed character. The best character in the film in my opinion was the ex-navy amputee who had more character development than anyone else in the film.

Character Growth

What happens to Valerie in the story that changes her? What happens to make our impressions of her change?

At the beginning we can see Valerie is a very sensible, moral person though she harbors a severe dislike of ignorance, condescension and rudeness. She is confident and a great showman on stage and off but she has an underlying insecurity and sense of moral obligation to her mum and to her job. She displays traits of wanting to be wild and free but is stuck in her life and job.  She doesn’t know how to progress from it and to take steps to making her dreams come true.

After a series of events that push her to her limits of patience and endurance she snaps. She loses control and does what she has wanted to do for years. She kills the person who tipped the scale viciously and messily. After the rage passes she goes into shock about what she’s done. She processes her feelings and the situation. She initially feels as anyone sane would feel; regret, shame and panic. She becomes delirious in her panic and begins to laugh. In her delirium, the side of her that would normally be squashed and ignored becomes free. She begins to rationalise her actions and believes that they were deserved and she feels it was justified. She begins to relish the fact that she has done away with someone who she could not stand and believed unworthy of life. Elation and relief flood through her and it is in this moment that she develops into someone that we are slightly unsure about. She breaks through her moral boundaries which was one of the main things that kept her normal and average in the eyes of the audience.

Character Development

In this post my fictional character, Valerie, responds to 20 questions that will help us become more acquainted with her.

1 How do you feel about your parents? Closer to your mother or father?
I am pretty close to my mum even though I feel like I’m the mother. Dad left us when I was 12 and I had to step up and support her through it. She didn’t handle it well and for years I pretty much had to look after her. Even now, I don’t think she’s completely dealt with it completely. Even though I love her dearly it annoys me that she can’t step up and be a stronger woman.
2 What is your attitude to sex?
I’m pretty free and easy about sex. I’m all for having casual relations as long as the other person has reasonable intellect, and isn’t a creepy, slimy womaniser.
3 What is your attitude to religion?
I hold organised religion in contempt and am disinterested in other peoples views. As long as a person has good morals and values, and knows right from wrong I’m happy to know them. I guess you could say I’m spiritual.

4 What is your attitude to money?
I find it very appealing but only as a means to an end. It’s not a driving force in my life but like everyone I would love to get ahead. I’d really love to be in a financial position to produce my own magic theatre show. It would be the best show people has ever seen with scientists and engineers helping to design and build props for world class illusions.
5 How would you spend a million dollars?
Refer to above. I’d also keep about $100,000 for myself as back up.
6 What are you favourite hobbies?
researching on the net; mostly about magicians and historical figures. I practice yoga. I used to do ballet, jazz and gymnastics. I adore practicing sleight of hand and seeing how much I can get away with. It’s amazing how much you can do without people noticing.

7 What do you hate most?
Ignorance and stupidity. I despise that some people have no value for knowledge. I hate condescending men. I also despise the idea that I won’t make anything of my life; in fact that’s my greatest fear.

8 What is your first impression on others?
I think people initially judge me on my looks. I look after myself and always try to present myself well; you never know who you’ll bump into. As a result I think people mistake me for someone who is just image driven. I think after they meet and talk to me they see that I am not a dope and am a very friendly and quietly driven person.

9 What is your proudest achievement?
One of my proudest achievements was winning the talent show at school just after my dad left. I was emotionally wrecked but I still managed to pull myself together and use my emotions for my dancing. I received an offer to transfer to a school of performing arts but my mum couldn’t afford the fees at the time.

10 What are you most ashamed of?
The fact that I take abuse and criticisms from my boss and I shouldn’t have to.

11 What is your favourite fantasy?
I would love for magic to actually be real. I love imagining about having different powers and how I would use them in my everyday life.

12 What would you try hardest to avoid?
Being seen as worthless, and be stuck in as dead-end job and live in the same place my entire life.

13 Who has had the greatest influence on you?
I read a lot and so I guess emotionally I’ve been greatly mentored and influenced by Paulo Coelho and his intuitive novels. Professionally I’ve been influenced by many magicians, past and present, in particular, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, and Dynamo.

14 What are you chief taboos?
I guess, Rape? Betrayal is definitely taboo for me. I also cannot stand ignorance and become irate when I encounter it.

15 What kind of person would you like to be?
I’d like to be a free version of who I am now. I’d like to be that carefree, fun person that people love to be around, which I am to a degree but with the hours I work I can’t really go out with my friends. I would also like to be confident and financially free to fullfill my dreams and be someone who actively pursues their passions. At the moment I feel choked and strangled by my financial dependance on my assistant job and the need to be close to my mum to support her.

16 How far away are you from your ideal?
I’m a fair way off from my dreams. I need to master my skills and develop my own tricks. I need to create a following for myself or find a financial backer to fund the show and to create the type of hype needed to hook people into seeing me perform and thereby gather a fan base. I’m dreaming big and I find it hard to know where to begin and how to get there.

17 What, if anything, is worth dying for?
If I died performing my signature trick and was remembered for it, I think that might be worth it. Then I will have gained the acclaim that I crave. Dying for anything though isn’t really my idea of fun.

18 What makes life worthwhile?
At the moment, having my dreams keeps me going and make my efforts worth it. I enjoy this life for what it is at the moment but I know that it’s not meant for me. What I really take pleasure in is spontaneously doing magic for kids. If I’m at the shops I’ll like to surreptitiously make things appear and disappear behind the parents back. They give such honest reactions to magic and I find that beautiful to see and to know that I’ve inspired them to think and wonder.

19 How do you foresee your future?
If I end up get a start in professional show of my own, I see myself traveling and meeting fascinating people from all over the world. Talking and sharing ideas while on the road performing with amazing, talented people. That would be a dream come true.

20 What do you think man’s purpose on Earth is?
Who can really say? Probably just to procreate and help the human species to thrive just like any other living creatures. If we are going deeper I’d probably like to think that we are spiritual beings who are on Earth to experience as much as possible and spread love and positivity for spiritual growth.

So you want an iconic moment?

Here is a character I’ve come up with. She is still in the early stages of development and needs better line work, colour and shading, but basically this is the moment that turns her life around.

A Serial Killer Begins

She is a magicians assistant. She is intelligent, impatient with stupidity and very good at sleight of hand and magic herself. She is often quicker than her boss and does not enjoy having to play second fiddle all the time. She also has anger management issues from being talked down to all the time. This moment has taken place after she had a horrible night performing and was walking home. A man did something that tipped her anger scale like never before. She snaps and kills him by stabbing him repeatedly with her stiletto heel. After recovering from the shock she discovers that she isn’t upset or remorseful about what she’s done. In fact she finds herself relieved and content having just rid the world of one low life, idiot. In this moment she realises she can do a lot more and finds new purpose in her life by seeking out and killing criminals and people she deems unworthy of life.

Same Old Story Structure…

I have gathered from reading the set text ‘Ideas for the Animated Short’ that the reason people haven’t tired of the same old structure is that it isn’t the thing that draws people to see film. At their core, people are interested in film because of the stories that they tell. People love to see things that they can relate to, to escape to a different time and place, to see relatable characters with human flaws struggle through adversity and jump hurdles to achieve a goals. People can relate to that. And that is why I’ve found that after all this time, people haven’t tired of watching films. Naturally some types of stories go in and out of style, just as anything else e.g. the fashion industry. Some things have their hey day and won’t come back into mainstream for a long time. For example the “monster on the loose” type films of the mid 1900’s, involving Ray Harryhausen. Jason and the Argonauts and Beast from 20,000 Fathoms were amazing films but an audience needs diversity in subject matter and story to keep their attention and so at the peak of his career, Harryhausen’s work became a little passe to the public eye. As we can see now, though, with the Transformers franchise, Pacific Rim, and Godzilla soon to be released, we can see a resurgence in interest in these types of films and gives some truth to my conclusion about the rise and fall in popularity of different types of stories.  
What dictates this changing opinion? Who decides when it’s time for a new movement, and what it should be? Is it the public? Somehow I think not. Is it the producers and directors? Or is it just the case of perfect timing for someone who has just so happened to have a good idea and brought it to the attention of someone of note, and they say “hey, that’s fresh and different, let’s do that”? Timing is often a huge factor in these matters as I’ve seen first hand.
My uncle had an idea for a childrens television series many years ago. He had it all organised with two episodes written, fully rendered artwork for characters and backgrounds, two theme songs written. His agent got it read by a producer who optioned it and was quite sold on producing it for a major network. A new producer came in and decided that they it wasn’t what they were looking for at the time and gave it a miss.
How many other people with ideas and concepts out there have failed to show their work? Countless. It’s the nature of the industry. I guess we just have to do what we love and be good at it so we can take advantage of opportunity when it comes.

Writing Tips!


I was linked this article by my uncle. I think it has a few pointers which would be useful to keep in mind when writing.

I particularly found good advice in the last point. It is so easy to veer off track or go on a tangent about a nonessential plot point. If it doesn’t advance the plot we have to think carefully and be brutally honest about whether it needs to remain in the story or we can rid ourselves of pointless fluff. Sometimes it’s going to be hard because we might be particularly fond of that part. The best screenwriters and story artists fall prey to this all the time.

I attended the Pixar Story and Animation Masterclass in Melbourne last year and it was amazing. An entire day was dedicated to story and we learned about Matt Luhn’s journey in story creation. They, at Pixar, have to be completely honest with each other and keep the main story and purpose in mind, otherwise it’s easy to get lost in beautiful detail and the film loses it’s strength in communicating the story.